Football and beer

Phillip at Stadion FK Viktoria Žižkov © Ricky Yates

I hope the regular readers of my blog will forgive the rather sharp contrast between some of my more recent writings on faith related issues and this post. But then I do live in the Czech Republic where football is a major sport and where both the production and drinking of beer are deemed to be highly important activities.

Back on the evening of Sunday 6th November, my son Phillip flew into Prague to spend a few days with me, his first visit here since January 2010.  As football and beer are two of his interests, I was pleased that we were able to enjoy both of them together during the short time he was here.

The top tier of Czech football is called the Gambrinus liga as it is sponsored by the producers of Gambrinus, a very drinkable Czech beer. During the football season, each weekend there is a round of matches, spread out between Friday evening and Monday evening, in part to allow for television coverage of some of the games. Fortunately, the Monday evening match featured a home fixture for one of the five Prague based teams in the Gambrinus liga, FK Viktoria Žižkov.

The Assistant Referee with the sponsor’s logo © Ricky Yates





Žižkov is a Prague suburb on the eastern side of the Vltava River, whereas the Chaplaincy Flat where I live, is on the western side. But it only took a thirty minute tram journey to reach the ground which lies below the hill on which the suburb of Žižkov sits, just the far side of Prague’s main railway station.

FK Viktoria Žižkov were playing FC Baník Ostrava in what would best be described as a bottom-of-the-table clash as at that point in time, Baník Ostrava were bottom of the league and Viktoria Žižkov were third from bottom. It resulted in a 3 – 0 win for the visitors and unfortunately for us, all three goals were scored at the opposite end of the ground from where we were sitting. But we did both enjoy ourselves and supped a few half litres of Gambrinus whilst watching the match.






Enjoying my Gambrinus at Stadion FK Viktoria Žižkov © Ricky Yates

The match in progress at Stadion FK Viktoria Žižkov © Ricky Yates

The grand main railway station in Plzen © Ricky Yates

Later in the week, Phillip and I went for a day trip to Plzen, the fourth largest city in the Czech Republic and the home of the most famous Czech beer, Pilsner Urquell. We travelled there by train, partly because a couple of days earlier, the local Renault garage informed me that the noise coming from the rear brakes on my car was not just due to the need for new brake pads, but also because the brake shoes and a seized-up brake calliper all also needed replacing. As the estimated repair cost is CZK 15,000 (about £500), about half my net pay for a month, I’m still debating what to do. However, travelling by train did also mean that I could enjoy the local brew without any concern of infringing Czech drink-driving laws.

The train trip takes one hour and forty minutes between Praha hlavní nádraží and Plzen hlavní nádraží. Above is a photograph of the grand station building dating from the mid-nineteenth century which no doubt once said Pilsen Hauptbahnhof when it was first built during the time when what is now the Czech Republic, was a subjugated part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Entrance to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery © Ricky Yates

Beer tanks within the Pilsner Urquell Brewery © Ricky Yates

The Pilsner Urquell Brewery is only a short walk from the railway station and, having booked and paid for our tickets for the 14.00 brewery tour in English, we had just under an hour in which we enjoyed a good lunch at a very reasonable price in the brewery restaurant.

The tour itself was by far the best brewery tour I’ve so far been on in the Czech Republic. The young female guide spoke excellent English, could answer questions coherently, and made the whole experience, which lasted around one and a half hours, most enjoyable.

Poster outside the fan shop of FC Viktoria Plzen © Ricky Yates

The Church of St. Bartholomew, Plzen with market stalls below © Ricky Yates

Continuing the football theme, Phillip was very pleased to notice that the stadium of FC Viktoria Plzen was nearby so we walked across to it before heading into the city centre. For the first time in their history, FC Viktoria Plzen won the Gambrinus liga last season and then successfully qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League this season.

Just before it got dark, we made our way into the main square of the city where the gigantic Gothic St. Bartholomew Church is situated. Around it was a street market selling a variety of goodies, together with some free musical entertainment, all of which was intended to celebrate St. Martinstide, as the following day was 11th November, the feast day of St. Martin, Bishop of Tours.

Whilst I’ve driven around Plzen numerous times on the motorway from Prague to the German border, this was my first venture into the city itself. It is now on my list of places to re-visit, preferably in summer when, with longer hours of daylight, I will be able to enjoy its many architectural delights.


7 comments to Football and beer

  • Good to see you enjoying yourself!

    I must admit I am more or less teetotal these days, but when I go to a football match (very rare)I usually enjoy a drink or two before or after the game, but I’m quite surprised that over in the Czech Republic alcohol is allowed in the grounds, or were you and Phillip “smuggling” in the beers?? 🙂

    • Ricky

      Thank you Wandering Pilgrim – Yes, beer is freely available for sale within every football ground in the Czech Republic & you can take it and drink it in your seat whilst watching the game. I commented upon this & other contrasts with watching a match in the English Premiership in my earlier post, ‘A local derby football match’. No need to smuggle in the beers!

      It does help that the top division is sponsored by Gambrinus. But equally, whilst there is always a police presence at matches, I’ve never witnessed any crowd trouble & the police are often more concerned about keeping the traffic flowing on the surrounding roads than having to separate opposing fans.

  • You are very fortunate as in Scotland there is a no drinking policy at football games yet rugby is exempt from this.
    Enjoy it whilst you can.

    Does the drinking not fuel any violence between rival supporters ?


    • Ricky

      Hi Jim – I do know what the law is with regard to the sale & drinking of alcohol at football grounds in the various parts of the UK. But as I said in my reply to Wandering Pilgrim, I’ve never witnessed any crowd trouble here. Usually, the only alcohol fuelled silly behaviour one sees is from visiting stag and hen groups from the UK, of which fortunately, there are far fewer than some years ago.

  • I’m afraid football leaves me cold, Ricky, though, as you know, I’m not adverse to the odd glass or two of good Czech beer. 🙂 Plzen looks a lovely place to visit.

    • Ricky

      Hi Perpetua – Yes, I do know you enjoy the odd glass or two of good Czech beer. IMHO you would be foolish not to 🙂

      Plzen is like many larger Czech towns & cities. It is surrounded by paneláks, (communist era blocks of flats), and the remains of heavy industry. But in the centre, as in Prague, there is a wealth of historic buildings & cobbled streets, which over the past 22 years since the fall of communism, have been or are being lovingly restored to their former glory. One such building is a very large Jewish synagogue, apparently the third largest in the world, the outside of which I just got a glimpse of in the twilight.

  • Dan@BabyShopping

    Your conversation about Plzen and Czech beer caught my eye, and stirred my taste-buds. I have been a long time fan of Pilsner Urquell that’s made in Plzen. It’s the only beer that I drink at home (Michigan, USA)….never more than 2 per day, but oh, so enjoyable. There just are not any American beers that compare to it.
    Someday, I’ll visit Plzen, and may never leave.